Monday, September 14, 2009

My Tricorne

Petunia and Leaf


To shutter it
down, like, dearie,
a public vow
to stop making
alcoholic jags in
New York excuses
for piggery. What
is the chance
of Gore Vidal’s
being a direct
descendent of Peire
Vidal? He of
Ab l’alen tir
vas me l’aire,

“I suck down
deep air come
out of Provence.”
I think Vallejo
had that line
in memory writing
how he’d perish
in Paris in
a downpour, “a
day I recall
with anticipation.” Pound
says what technique
is, is exactly
“suavity of exterior”
in a clinch
like being upright
and loose-joint’d,
fully prepared to
flop down anywhere
with a bottle,
or close up
shop, pocket a
lucky dehusk’d pip
off the horse-
chestnut, and go,
radiant, unbridled, free.

Ponder’d the imponderable dictates of form and scrapped the bloat-sonnet cut-out (after a one-day “spell” of trying—with the help of a tricorne hat—to resemble Marianne Moore). Back to seeing where the initial words fit (with a minimum of goosing) and letting that call the audibles (or toss out the ball).

Marianne Moore, 1887-1972

Read the short, final, undestroy’d novel of the suicide and schizophrenic Guillermo Rosales, The Halfway House (New Directions, 2009), translated by Anna Kushner, unwavering in its refusal of self-exculpation for tyrannies large and small:
My name is William Figueras, and by the age of fifteen I had read the great Proust, Hesse, Joyce, Miller, Mann. They were for me what saints are to a devout Christian. Twenty years ago, I finished writing a novel in Cuba that told a love story. It was the story of an affair between a communist and a member of the bourgeoisie, and ended with both of them committing suicide. The novel was never published and my love story was never known by the public at large. The government’s literary specialists said my novel was morose, pornographic and also irreverent, because it dealt with the Communist Party. After that, I went crazy. I began to see devils on the walls, to hear voices that insulted me—and I stopped writing. All I produced was a rabid dog’s froth. One day, thinking that a change of country would save me from the madness, I left Cuba and arrived in this great American country. There were some relatives waiting for me here who didn’t know anything about my life and who, after twenty years of separation, barely knew me anymore. They thought a future winner was coming, a future businessman, a future playboy, a future family man who would have a future house full of kids, and who would go to the beach on weekends and drive fine cars and wear brand-name clothing like Jean Marc and Pierre Cardin. The person who turned up at the airport the day of my arrival was instead a crazy, nearly toothless, skinny, frightened guy who had to be admitted to a psychiatric ward that very day because he eyed everyone in the family with suspicion and, instead of hugging them and kissing them, insulted them.

Of Note

Out of David Wheatley’s first book, Thirst (Gallery Books, 1997), Beckett-epigraph’d (The Unnamable), “thirsting away, you don’t know what for,” a piece call’d “Fourteen”:
The skinned rabbit’s blue cerebral lobes swimming in formaldehyde.


Deliberately to wait to be lapped in the P.E. mile or not?
Slipping in with my chasers, I saw my own footsteps leave me for dead.


French had an imperfect subjunctive, and nobody ever used it:
Serait-il possible que vous m’apportassiez un verre de vin?


Could our French assistant but have grasped the pronunciation of ‘oink’.


A Summer Project disco, an air guitar, and the dance floor all mine.


My alarm increasing, as the year wore on, at Morrissey’s bouffant
Was I This Charming Man, Still Ill, sure, even, What Difference It Made?


But at fourteen to start coming down, like a child, with underpants stains—
my ‘Look, no hands’ on my BMX the usual hypocrite’s boast.


And with that, a sense of ending all round: something underneath it all
that makes you run the opposite way from the rest one day in P.E.,
the lab rabbit crept from its glass jar escaping across the back fields.
Found, Thirst, I did, in a big annual book sale, idly wondering how it arrived, who discard’d it. (Not so difficult with the inscript’d-to-Anne-Carson—in a fine Palmer method hand—number by one of “our” sterling “post-avant” anthologist / poets.) The Wheatley piece is probably untypical (what’s “typical” in any initial collection?). It recall’d—I suppose it’s partially the Francophilia, partly the sense of odd thrill repugnance of incipient adolescence—lines out of Jeff Clark’s Michaux-inflect’d “Some Information About Twenty-Three Years of Existence”:

First ejaculation—accidental—: into a bottle of bath salts.

Entranced and mortified by crepuscular birdclatter.

Parable of the Hangared Satellite.

April: receiving, as if in earphones, someone else’s thinking.
(Typing that last, wondering if Clark’d seen the Disney Annette Funicello “vehicle,” The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), with Merlin (Tommy Kirk), who’s accidently zapped himself with some kind of experimental radio-helmut device, suddenly aware (in the school library) of being able to hear everybody’s thoughts. Mounting cacophony of voices, Merlin shouting “Shut up!” in quiet library: tiny comic spasm of release.)

Also in Thirst: a splendid answer to Ashbery’s “Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape” some thirty-years along, one kind of globalization meaning Homer Simpson comes to County Wicklow:
Landscape with Satellite Dish

Nothing ever seemed to happen in Springfield;
there was never anything good on TV.
Then the newsflash came through about the bomb.
Lisa stopped trying to electrocute Bart
to watch. ‘Looks like we’re in deep doo-doo,’
said Homer, going to fix himself a snack.

The hairs stood up on the back of Grandpa’s neck—
all thirteen of them. Who would save Springfield?
There was nothing anyone could do
except sit and keep watching TV.
By the fourth ad-break Homer was bored.
Who cared anyway about some stupid bomb?

‘Didn’t Professor Frink make a bomb-
defusing robot?’ asked Bart. Yes, but there was a snag:
it kept blowing up. A tearful Marge bared
her soul to the cowering shoppers of Springfield—
‘We could lose everything, even TV’—
and hid the family savings in her hairdo.

Then Homer had an idea, chewing his do-
nut—let Mr Burns take care of the bomb.
That weirdo! He didn’t even have a TV.
Homer got on the phone to Burns, snug
in his fallout shelter, and hollered: ‘Save Springfield!’
Now he was thirsty, and headed off for a beer

at Moe’s. Jasper was crying into his beard
at the bar: soon he’d be as dead as a dodo
and nothing would remain of dear old Springfield
but roaches and fallout, all because of the bomb
some two-bit punk was using to cock a snook
at folk like him and get some time on TV.

Burns was on the job though. Of course he watched TV;
he’d staged the whole thing to help him sweep the board
at the Oscars with his new film Sneak
a Wellesian thriller. ‘Think of the dough
I’m going to make,’ he chortled to Smithers. The bomb
was a hoax—what a lucky escape for Springfield!

TV announced the news to the people of Springfield.
Bored again, Homer forgot all about the bomb
and sneaked to the fridge for a beer. It was empty. Doh!
And, two pieces out of “Seven from Chamfort” (“These versions derive from maxims copied but not translated by Samuel Beckett”):
La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.

          count no day lost
          a laugh has cursed


Ce que j’ai appris, je ne le sais plus. Le peu que je sais encore, je l’ai deviné.

          all once known now lost unmourned
          bar what remains to be unlearned

David Wheatley